CHAPMANVILLE, W.Va. — In one of the most improbable postseason runs, the Poca baseball team fell short on a wild pitch and an unlikely double play that sapped its momentum on Wednesday night at Ted Ellis Field.
Chapmanville’s Tristan Thompson reached on an error and later scored on a wild pitch in the fifth inning and the junior made it hold up in a sterling pitching performance and a 2-1 win in the Class AA Region 4 championship.
The victory sends the Tigers (28-6) into the Class AA state semifinals against the Region 2 champion at 5 p.m. on Friday, June 6.
Thompson struck out 11 Poca batters with no walks and gave up just two hits to increase his season strikeout total to 56 and keep his walk total at 14.
“I knew Poca would be a good match, so I had to keep it together,” said the excitable Thompson.
Thompson, whose father gave him the nickname “Rooster” when he was little and gets “Rooster” by Alice in Chains as his walk-up music, hunkered down late in the game striking out five consecutive batters and setting down the last 12 batters.
“I knew I had to buckle down,” Thompson said. “I don’t know, I just felt it. I couldn’t tell you, honestly.”
“He beat us three times this year,” Poca coach Mike Hutchinson said of Thompson. “It’s hard to beat a team three times in the same year, and he did it.”
Prior to his shutdown finish, Noah Frampton reached base and got to second on an error in the fourth and Jake Payne doubled. The ball was hit into the right field corner and got caught in the padding.
After a brief conference between the coaches and umpires, it was determined that Payne would remain at second base. A Matt Chandler line drive was caught by second baseman William Copley in short center field and he doubled up Payne at second, ending any further damage. Brenden Iezzi then grounded out to the pitcher.
“I had to calm (Thompson) down several times there, he burns a lot of energy like that especially when you get into emotional tournament games like this,” Chapmanville coach Eric Ellis said.
After Poca struck with a run, Austin Ellis led off the bottom of the fourth with a double and was singled home by Jordan Cook, who had the game’s only RBI. A strikeout, throw-out situation ensued to get Poca out of the inning.
In the fifth, Thompson reached on an error and Brock Dalton struck out looking. A walk to Copley and a strikeout to Bigley was followed by a wild pitch to Chris Bailey, allowing Thompson to cross the plate with that proved to be the winning run.
Poca (12-21) didn’t have a hit after Payne’s double and its bottom five hitters were 0 for 12 with seven strikeouts.
The Tigers had six hits, but Payne held them in check for the most part, leaving the bases loaded in the first and two runners on in each of the fifth and sixth innings.
Ellis and Adam Dingess each had doubles for Chapmanville, which will be seeking its second state championship in four seasons. The Tigers won the 2011 Class AA state title.
Poca, meanwhile, saw its improbable run that included an upset victory over defending state champion Herbert Hoover end.
“This is about as tough as it can get,” Hutchinson said. “One win away from the state tournament, something Poca hasn’t played in since 1970. It would’ve been a heck of an accomplishment, and to come one run away … it’s heartbreaking for the kids.”
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-3248-4837. Follow him on Twitter @richdailymail.